Wednesday, November 01, 2006

The Future Of Robotics As We Know It!

This is my robot.

It's a quadruped (4 legged walker). I built it out of 5 hobby servos (one for the waist and one for each leg). Coat hanger wire and brass nuts and washers from the hardware store are what holds it all together.

It's designed around the BEAM robotics philosophy. BEAM stands for biology, electronics, aesthetics and mechanics.

BEAM robot circuitry is composed of mainly hard wired electronics that are used to get it to walk. No computer micro-processors are involved in the walking gaits, which leaves loads of room for actual computing power. This is the robotics design of the future. One day all robots will be designed around the BEAM philosophy. Beam robots are more agile, sturdy and flexible that conventional robots.

Have you ever seen the Robosapien? That's BEAM technology. It was invented by Mark Tilden.
Click Here to see the Robosapien.

This particular picture of it has no electronics attached. The electronics are sitting on a breadboard waiting to be tested and installed.

The basic walking circuit uses a kind of biofeedback sensing technology that's built into the motor drivers. Basically, if it gets it's leg stuck in a hole it's "spinal cord" will sense a "drag" on the system and work that leg a little harder to try and get unstuck.

This one will have the ability to walk forward using 3 different gaits and three different power levels, sense obstacles, back up, sense static electricity, sense water, sense the difference between light and dark, recharge itself when needed, using solar power, and run away from loud noises. While in standard mode it will seek out light and try to make sure it's batteries are topped off until something interrupts it such as a loud noise, puddle of water, high static charge etc.

I have designed a priority sensing network so it will know when to switch from a certain mode into another mode if needed. When all modes are off it will seek light. When it gets to a spot that has enough light it will stop and it will sit there and charge until the battery is topped off. Kind of like a gator sunning on a log. When the battery tops off it will enter "explore mode". It will wander around avoiding obstacles until something interrupts it. If it walks into a puddle it will back away and turn around then switch back to explore mode. If it hears a loud noise or gets a strong jolt (like by a cat trying to mess with it or something) it will turn around and run away.

I may have a hard time getting all the circuitry to fit on this little guy. If so I will have to switch to some bigger motors. I was thinking windshield wiper motors out of a car or something if they are efficient enough. Maybe.

I was thinking about posting the schematics here but that is way too time consuming for me to do right now. It's all scribbled on a piece of paper and most of it is already on a breadboard. So I know it works I just don't have a very good schematic of it right now.

I will post some schematics in the future.

If you would like to know more about BEAM technology and get some schematics to work with so you can start building your own BEAM robots you can start by visiting the sites listed below:
- THE place to get BEAM Robotics Parts, Kits and accessories

Beam Online
- This is the Yahoo of BEAM resources. They have Robot Pictures, Info about Mark Tilden, Solar Engine Schematics, Microcores, ,Bi-Cores, Motor Drivers etc...

- Lots of info about Micro BEAM bots

The Microcore
- Lots of crucial info and white papers about the microcore by Andrew Miller. Hosted by The microcore is the basic walking/pulsing circuit of the BEAM community. Learn how to build it, what to do with it, learn about leg mechanics and how to interface it all to create the ultimate BEAM walking robot. This is where I learned most everything I know about walkers.

- The BEAM robotics FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions Page) If you have a question about BEAM then it will most likely be here.

Don't be scared to try this! It's easy!

Have FUN and good luck!

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